Outwardly, Wintergirls had everything that would recommend itself to me: hard-hitting “issues” book, the promise of fantastic prose, an author who’s something of an institution in the realistic fiction world. What could go wrong? I thought.
One should never underestimate the great importance of a well-rounded, complex protagonist. Because, sadly, that’s the one thing Laurie Halse Anderson forgot to include in this book, and it made a huge difference.
Lia is eighteen and living with her dad and his second wife, struggling to get skinny again after a series of hospital stays. She finds out her former best friend Cassie is dead because of her bulimia, and it’s more or less Lia’s fault. Obviously, Lia’s anorexia becomes a whole other animal, and there’s a lot of angsting to be done. Also some delusions and hallucinations (which I assume are caused by Lia’s malnourished state).
In the end, Lia faces her demons, almost dies, and starts down the road to recovery in a somewhat cheesy, cliche manner. Like any genre, realistic fiction has its patterns and go-tos, and I didn’t mind this book’s plot much at all. No, it didn’t wow me, but I would have enjoyed it had there not been the two-dimentionality of Lia’s character.
I felt that Lia was just an symbol of an anorexic girl. She embodied an idea, but she wasn’t a person of her own merit. Whatever growth she experienced seemed forced, like Anderson knew Lia was going to have to change her outlook on life, even if Lia didn’t seem to want to. It lacked genuineness. Lia was not an authentic character for me.
However, Laure Halse Anderson’s prose was to die for. Wintergirls is almost worth reading just for the text. This author expresses herself wonderfully, fluidly. I’m a huge fan of authors who stray outside “proper grammar”and play with the language a bit. Breaking the rules is a-okay with me, just so long as the author knows what s/he’s doing.
Altogether, I must admit to being underwhelmed by Wintergirls. Laurie Halse Anderson is something of a celebrity in the YA world, and this book is, aside from Speak, her most well-liked. It wasn’t bad book by any means—I actually thought it was quite good and I enjoyed it a lot. But Wintergirls definitely didn’t live up to the hype that accompanies it.